ASEAN meets amid Korea tension and South China Sea row

"We exchanged views on regional and global issues of common interest and concern.We had engaged in a productive and fruitful deliberation of ASEAN's work in the community building process", Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who chaired the meeting, said at the summit's closing press conference.

"We respected the Philippines' views and cooperated ..."

After lobbying from Duterte, China agreed to let Philippine boats back to the rich fishing ground of the disputed Scarborough Shoal following a four-year blockade.

Before their lunch, the 10 leaders posed for their traditional linked-arms photo in front of the palace, which used to house the office of the vice president.

He told them that the Philippines shares Asean's view that inclusiveness is vital in pursuing regional and global agenda, and that this can be attained if ordinary people understand the importance of the regional bloc in their lives.

Meanwhile, it emerged US President Donald Trump has again invited Mr Duterte to the White House during a phone call on Saturday that also addressed concerns over North Korea.

According to reports, the two leaders spoke at around 11pm on Saturday but details of the conversation was not made available at the time the story was written.

ASEAN, which makes decisions by consensus, has previously struggled to come up with statements on the issue, with Duterte's predecessor often pushing for a tougher tone against China and getting pushback from members, like Beijing's allies Cambodia and Laos, unwilling to upset their largest trading partner and most important economic benefactor.

China has built structures believed to be military facilities in seven reefs in South China Sea that are also being claimed by the Philippines namely Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven) and Calderon (Cuarteron).

If Trump manages to salvage the US-Philippine alliance despite Duterte's pledge in China to join Beijing and Moscow to face down the rest of the world, it will be a well-deserved feather in his diplomatic cap.

With a combined gross domestic product of $2.55 trillion in 2016 and robust year-on-year real GDP growth rate of 4.7 percent that is expected to accelerate to 4.8 percent this year, Asean leaders also committed to continue efforts to further integrate the region's economies.

Similarly, Duterte said he was open to having joint military drills with China. The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between ASEAN and six other states - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Asean chairman and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued closer links with China in recent months as he moves away from his country's historical ally, the U.S.

The meeting was the first of two annual summits of ASEAN.

"On the ground, there is no hindrance to China achieving absolute dominance in the South China Sea, whether in military or civilian terms, regardless of parameters set by worldwide law", said Jay Batongbacal, from the University of the Philippines.

Duterte's drug war, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings by rights groups about a possible crime against humanity, has been widely condemned in the West.

In the latest version of the communique, that phrase has been removed from the South China Sea topic and moved elsewhere in the statement, which discussed all issues tackled by the ASEAN leaders.